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Posted by on Jul 18, 2011 in Media | 8 comments

Murdoch’s Properties Go On The Offensive

News Corp. is embroiled in a legal and ethics scandal in the U.K., and closure of the newspaper at the heart of the mess, News of the World (NOTW), has done nothing to contain the damage. News Corp. reportedly generates about 75 percent of its revenue in the U.S, and its two flagship American properties, FOX News and the Wall Street Journal, have both gone on the offensive.

WSJ: “Deluded dishonest whining victimology”

The unsigned editorial (Paul Gigot is the editorial page editor) in Monday’s Wall Street Journal has as its sub-head: A tabloid’s excesses don’t tarnish thousands of other journalists. I’ve not read such a claim, and the author doesn’t provide evidence that anyone has made it. This argument is a form of logical fallacy known as a straw man, and there are other red herrings sprinkled throughout the editorial.

In the view of the WSJ, the (apparent) turning-an-almost-blind-eye by investigators (after all, two people were jailed in 2007) is worse than the crime itself and worse than, one supposes, the passing along of favors and money that led to any blind eyes.

At least three British investigations into phone-hacking and payments to police and others by the now-shuttered News of the World tabloid are underway, with 10 arrests so far. News Corp. and its executives have apologized profusely and are cooperating with authorities. Phone-hacking is illegal, and it is up to British authorities to enforce their laws. If Scotland Yard failed to do so adequately when the hacking was first uncovered several years ago, then that is more troubling than the hacking itself.

Ah. Ten arrests so far. How many were News Corp. employees? At least seven were NOTW reporters and editors. The others – NOTW hired hands.* Arrests so often do lead to “cooperation” don’t they.

On Twitter, New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen summed up the editorial:

Deluded dishonest whining victimology delivered in the form of a Wall Street Journal editorial on the phone hacking crisis

The impetus for the editorial is vaguely related to Friday’s resignation of Les Hinton, for almost four years the CEO of Dow Jones, which publishes the WSJ. Before coming to this side of the pond, Hinton ran the News Corp. British newspaper division during the years of the phone hacking.

The editorial should be read as an example of what not to do. The Washington Post makes some of the same points in a more reasonable manner, although it doesn’t convince me, either.

It should also come as no surprise that the first interview Rupert Murdoch granted since the scandal broke went to … the Wall Street Journal.

FOX News: From Perp To Victim, Reframing News of the World Hacking

James Fallows (The Atlantic) brought this gem to my attention: last week FOX News commentators managed to frame NOTW as a victim of computer hacking, based on the juxtaposition of stories about hacking into the Pentagon, Citicorp, Bank of America and American Express. Now that’s spin!

There are two problems with making NOTW and News Corp the meat in this tasty cybercrime sandwich: News Corp orchestrated (it’s the perp, not the victim) the hacking, which was of cell phone voice mail, not computer systems housing social security numbers, bank accounts and other personal data.

What is fascinating (in a train wreck sorta way) is that FOX presents the story as one about computer security and then turns to a PR guy, Bob Dilenschneider, as the on-air “expert.” Dilenschneider used to run Hill and Knowlton, one of the largest PR firms in the world. It’s the PR guy who obfuscates by introducing Citicorp, Bank of America and American Express. “We’ve got a serious hacking problem in this country,” Dilenschneider affirms, “and we’ve got to figure out a way to deal with this hacking problem.” Wow!

Oh. And like the WSJ editorial, FOX presents poor News Corp a victim of media who “pile it on” according to Dilenschneider and FOX and Friends host Steve Doocy .

Oh. And “all those people” at NOTW got fired, Doocy said, “even though 99% of them had nothing to do with it.” [There’s another logical fallacy for you – great attempt at misdirection, don’t you think?]

* Who Has Been Arrested In The NOTW Scandal?

  1. 2007: Glenn Mulcaire, the private investigator (convicted)
  2. 2007: Clive Goodman, formal royal editor (convicted)
  3. April 2011: Ian Edmondson, news editor (arrested)
  4. April 2011: Neville Thurlbeck, chief reporter (arrested)
  5. April 2011: James Weatherup, NOTW position unknown (arrested)
  6. June 2011: Terenia Taras, a freelancer for the News of the World (arrested)
  7. June 2011: An unnamed reporter from the Press Association (arrested)
  8. Number 8: unknown as of this writing
  9. July 8, 2011: Andy Coulson, former News of the World editor who became P.M. David Cameron’s press spokesman (arrested)
  10. July 17, 2011 : Rebekah Brooks, News International CEO (arrested)

If you bought ’em, use ’em seems to be the philosophy.

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